The playoffs are always challenging as they play on odd days, and columns can’t keep up with them all, so we’ll digest for this week.
After two straight wins at home, Portland headed to Everett and picked up a 6-1 win. That usually would see back-to-back games, but an event in Everett prolonged the series by four days, and it seemed to be the tonic for the Tips, who registered a 5-0 shutout of the Hawks, forcing a game 5 in Portland.
That game was tight, as it took over seventeen minutes for the first goal. Gabe Klassen found the pass of Marek Alscher and one-timed it past Tyler Palmer to give Portland a 1-0 lead after one.
Two powerplay goals by Everett just over a minute apart late in the second period put Everett up by one heading to the third.
After several top saves by Jan Spunar in the Hawks net, the Hawks raced to the Everett zone. An initial shot was stopped by Palmer, but the rebound went straight to James Stefan, who buried it left side to tie the game midway through the period.
The game headed to overtime, where the periods are full 20 minutes. Everett took a penalty, and a minute later, it was Robbie Fromm-Delorme with the shot that ended Everett’s season. A 3-2 OT win for the Hawks and a 4-1 series win. They will now head to Kamloops, where the series will start on Friday and Saturday. Games will head to Portland Wednesday and Thursday. Other games would be Saturday in Kamloops, Monday in Portland, and Wednesday in Kamloops. Spunar has played in all five games vs. Everett.
Seattle’s opponent. Prince George Cougars captured a 6-2 win in Kennewick and led the series 3-2 heading to Prince George. Game six went to overtime as both teams battled back and forth to get a deadlocked 4-4 tie. During the final minutes of regulation, both teams were on a flurry as both goaltenders had to make some nearly impossible saves. The near sellout crowd was on their feet as the overtime took place.
A big fight happened in overtime which seemed to turn the tide for the Cougars, and then shortly after that, the game’s final goal for the Cougars as Chase Wheatcroft finished a 2 on 1 to finish the game for Prince George.
Seattle will host Prince George most likely this coming Friday, and the schedule will come out later today. Prince George makes the second round for the first time since 2007 and has given Seattle a good run for its money.
Things remained murky in the East, with Winnipeg sweeping their series with Medicine Hat and Red Deer finally dispatching Calgary in five games. Moose Jaw has also swept Lethbridge. The holdup is game seven with Saskatoon and Regina. If Saskatoon wins, they will host Red Deer. If Regina wins, the Pats go to Winnipeg, and Red Deer hosts Moose Jaw, so things hinge a great deal on that one game to be played in Saskatoon on Monday for a strong game seven matchup.
So far, looking at all of the teams, the best goal production has been Kamloops, with 24 goals to just 5 in their 4 games. Regina’s Connor Bedard continues to impress with 11 of his team’s 25 goals in six games. Coupled with his assists, he averages well over three points a game and is currently seven points up on second place, ironically held by another Regina Pat, Stanislav Svozil.
Game 7 took place in Regina, with the Blades facing the Pats for the right to advance to round 2. Saskatoon had the heavy advantage in shots and scored the only goal of the second period. Saskatoon added another midway through the third before Svozil for Regina clawed back to make it a one-goal game. Saskatoon may have gotten away with a trip in the neutral zone and went in to slide the puck to the right post of Sim in the Regina net. With about two minutes left, the dagger came with an empty net goal and a Saskatoon win. 4-1.
With it, Connor Bedard has most likely played his last game in the WHL and numerous records over the past year. What will Regina come up with next?
With that, the final four in the East are set. Winnipeg will host Red Deer, and Saskatoon will host Moose Jaw, with the series schedule to be announced shortly but expected to start Friday.
The biggest losers in the CHL seem to be the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL. After spending a ton of draft picks, they were bounced in four straight games in the first round. Thankfully for them, most of the selections were acquired, but still, it’s rebuilding without a safety net.
The second round now gets to start with some more exciting matchups.